Riverside High School: David Stehlar took a fiery path during his high school career, starting to work with the Kalispel Tribe firefighters but ending up online

For David Stehlar, it wasn’t athletics, studying or partying that made high school memorable — it was firefighting.

Inspired by the movie “Only the Brave”, Stehlar became interested in firefighting as a career.

Stehlar began volunteering with South Pend Oreille Fire & Rescue in April of his freshman year at Riverside High School.

Voluntary firefighting gave him the opportunity to explore the work, allowing him to discover that he had a passion for the field.

While Stehlar has trained throughout his firefighting career, his formal academy program began in October, the fall of his senior year. He graduated from the academy in December, four days after turning 18.

The schedule included classes on Wednesdays and training on Saturdays, primarily around structural fires. He has completed his required training and can operate the aircraft. He hopes to eventually try smokejumping.

“I’m looking forward to gaining experience with more wild land so I can improve,” Stehlar said.

This fire season he has been hired by the Kalispel Tribe and will be stationed in Usk. He left home on May 2 to start work on May 3. He will be graduating from HRH with his class but is completing his final year online.

Besides firefighting, Stehlar has been active with extracurriculars and academics.

Prior to the fire academy, Stehlar spent the majority of his time on a farm, living on one farm with his family and working on another. He started working on a farm when he was 14, looking for a way to earn money.

“I was raised on a farm, so instead of just doing chores around the house, I now got paid for it,” Stehlar said.

Farm work can be grueling and require 10 to 12 hour work weeks at times. He quit farm work in November to focus on firefighting.

Stehlar has raised pigs and sheep for 4-H and FFA, showing pigs at the Junior Livestock Show in Spokane every year since he was in third grade. He is in his 12th year of 4-H, having also shown cattle at the Clayton Community Fair since kindergarten.

This year, RHS has brought back its FFA program, where Stehlar serves on the officer team as a sentry and participates in the cattle judging team.

“He was always an active kid,” said his mother, Amanda Stehlar. “It’s always fun, he just did everything to keep busy.”

Throughout his senior year, Stehlar attended school full-time, was an active member of 4-H and the FFA, wrestled and played baseball for the Riverside Rams while attending night classes and training for the fire department. With all of his extracurriculars, Stehlar maintained better than a 3.1 for the entire high school.

“I didn’t really have to worry about him,” Amanda said. “He always did the right thing and made good choices.”

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